Ill staff more likely to work than throw a sickie

Two-thirds struggle in when they are unwell, says report, but 'culture of presenteeism' could hit productivity

Man working at desk
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

A culture of "presenteeism" in the UK is forcing people to go to work when they were ill, suggest two new studies.

A poll from insurer Aviva found 69 per cent of staff said they had worked while they were unwell. This compared to 23 per cent who said they had taken time off while perfectly healthy, reports Sky News.

"Many workers were worried about work piling up if they are off with illness," said Aviva.

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It also warned the reduction in working time lost to illness might be a "false economy" and that people working while unwell could hit productivity.

Output per hour for UK workers already lags behind other major nations and is frequently cited as a key reason why wage growth has been slow to recover from the financial crisis.

Doug Wright, medical director of Aviva UK Health, said: "While every business wants the right level of resource in place, having employees who are unwell at work is a false economy.

"Businesses need to ensure they create a working culture whereby people do not feel pressurised into coming to work when they are unwell, safe in the knowledge their absence can effectively be managed.

"Presenteeism, driven in part by an increased 'always-on' culture, poses a genuine threat to overall business performance through the adverse impact on productivity and morale in the workplace."

A second set of figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed a total of 137 million working days were lost last year, the equivalent of 4.3 days per worker.

"When records began in 1993, the equivalent of 7.2 days were lost," says the BBC.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the figures showed it was a "myth" that workers "are always throwing sickies".

She added: "We are really a nation of mucus troopers, with people more likely to go to work when ill than stay at home when well."

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